Spruce Meadows in Calgary Embarks on Major Expansion Including Restaurant, Retail Space and Hotel [Interview]


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World-class equestrian facility Spruce Meadows, just south of Calgary, has ambitious development plans for the sprawling site which include a restaurant, a coffee shop, retail space and a hotel.

Construction has begun on the site which will house the new two-level restaurant and coffee shop, overlooking the International Ring where some of the world’s top riders compete each year. Those are expected to open in 2025 to mark the facility’s 50th anniversary.

In an interview with Retail Insider, Linda Southern-Heathcott, President and CEO of Spruce Meadows, said Spruce Meadows is ever-evolving and ever-changing.

Linda Southern-Heathcott, President & Chief Executive Officer of Spruce Meadows Ltd (Image: Mario Toneguzzi)
Image: Spruce Meadows

A new Spruce Meadows Area Structure Plan envisions and outlines the growth opportunities the site can have in the future with huge potential for commercial (retail) development.

“We’re not sure what it’s going to be. Is it a farmer’s market? Is it shops that are actually here year-round? Part of the reason why the growth opportunities are there is because the City has approved development which is east of us and south of us and that’s I believe 35,000-40,000 homes,” said Southern-Heathcott.

“So there is a huge growth corridor and how can Spruce Meadows be a part of it. I think it’s a natural fit for Spruce Meadows to have a coffee shop. I think it’s a natural fit to have something that grounds us year-round with a restaurant. The restaurant will overlook the International Ring and then on the backside will also overlook the pond. So a very tranquil area.

“I think it’s a sweet spot in the south and a great opportunity for us to have the grounding piece, component, that’s year-round.”

The Area Structure Plan also includes the eventual redevelopment of the current All Canada Ring to include a 12,000-seat stadium with a restaurant and skyboxes that would host sports, soccer, equestrian and outdoor events.

Spruce Meadows (Image: Mario Toneguzzi)
Spruce Meadows (Image: Mario Toneguzzi)

She said the main restaurant will have capacity for about 140 people. There’s also 120 seats outside on a deck and space upstairs for about 80 to 100 people in a sports bar area. The coffee shop will have seating for about 35 people.

The restaurant has not been named yet.

“We’re going out with a Request for Proposal on who would run it,” she said. “The facility will be owned by us but it will be a contractor that is the caterer in there.”

From a retail perspective, Southern-Heathcott said the goal would be to support local vendors. Spruce Meadows has its own merchandise shop with both Spruce Meadows merchandise and of course merchandise for  Calvary FC, a professional soccer club in the Canadian Premier League, which plays its home games at Spruce Meadows.

“Is there an opportunity with some of our vendors that are here for whether it’s the Christmas Market or at the Masters (tournament) we have a number of vendors as well,” she said. “What that looks like as we go forward, I’m not too sure, but I believe it’s another space that we can enter into and provide a great service to local entrepreneurial partners.”

Every year Spruce Meadows holds its Christmas Market and last year it was voted the fourth best Christmas Market in the world. A skating rink is being planned for the area. As well, Spruce Meadows will be offering long-table dinners in its Congress Hall. 

Spruce Meadows (Image: Mario Toneguzzi)

Southern-Heathcott said the facility is looking to reach out to new fans.

“We have to always remember that lots of our original fans, they’re older now, and how do we reach the young people. We have a target audience of between 18 and 35 and we want to continue to create these experiences for them and then they can embrace Spruce Meadows going forward,” she said. 

The Area Structure Plan has approved a hotel development on the site and Southern-Heathcott said there is a need for one.

“It will probably be a smaller boutique hotel but we haven’t dipped our toe yet into it. The Area Structure Plan really is envisioning everything we could possibly be,” she said. “It’s a 20-year horizon. So there’s lots of pieces, components, in there. For any destination like Spruce Meadows, a hotel is fundamental. For me, I wanted the restaurant first because it relates to our events and to what we can offer and then I think the next stage would be the hotel.”

Michael Kehoe, Broker of Record with Fairfield Commercial Real Estate in Calgary, said the transformation of Spruce Meadows into a diversified sports and entertainment destination with new dining, retail and other amenities is very exciting. 

Michael Kehoe

“The introduction of new commercial uses in a “Sports and Entertainment District”  is in keeping with the long-term growth, development, and diversification strategy at the venue. Spruce Meadows is a unique world-class facility and an iconic place for sport and equestrian show jumping for almost 50 years. Most people are not aware that it is privately-owned and open to the public year-round with more than half a million visitors annually. One of the focal points of the Sports and Entertainment District at Spruce Meadows will be an experiential 5,685-square-foot restaurant facility now under construction along with an adjoining main floor café space that have a projected summer of 2025 opening to the public,” he said. 

“Fairfield Commercial Real Estate is assisting Spruce Meadows to secure a food service partner for the turnkey restaurant and cafe spaces. The restaurant will be an important amenity within the Sports and Entertainment District and will be a great addition to Spruce Meadows and the surrounding community.”

Spruce Meadows is wholly owned and operated by the Southern Family. The facility began as basically barren land when Ron and Marg Southern had a vision of turning it into what it has become today as a leading venue in the world for international horse sports with a focus on the organization and hosting of show jumping tournaments.

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.


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